Museum the New Llano Colony

Gentry P. McCorkle

Birth: He was born in 1870 at Obion, Tennessee.

Family Information: Husband of Ruth (Cason) McCorkle.

Father of Gentry P. Jr., Hiram, Mary and David McCorkle.  

Description: He was a Christian Socialist.  

Pre-Colony History: In 1910 he was living in New Mexico with his wife and two sons and working as a banker. In 1913 he was President of the Sierra County Bank and Sierra Telephone Company.

However, he claimed it bothered him when, as a banker, he was able to expropriate another man's labor as his "profit." Furthermore banking seemed incompatible with Christianity as he understood it.

In 1914 Job Harriman sought him out for a business proposition; he was seeking money to "build a city and make homes for many a homeless family." Harriman wanted to show the world how to "live without war or interest on money or rent on land or profiteering in any manner."

McCorkle said of their first meeting, "Now I had often heard of Job Harriman. He was a leading lawyer in the state of California. He was the champion for the labor movement, defender of the poor, the dispossessed, the unfortunate and of the moneyless man. He was the chief defense of the working class in California. He was the best loved and most hated legal warrior in the city."

At the time, Southern California was a succession of soup counters. McCorkle wanted to help, so he agreed to take on the project, even though his wife "cried her eyes out," and deep down, he was not convinced the idea would work in an economic sense.

Home in Colony:  

Job in Colony: Harriman, financed by McCorkle, began buying up land for the purpose of consolidating the water rights. McCorkle, for his part, soon established a pattern of making a percentage on all his dealings with the colony -- he put up the necessary capital, then leased back, or held in trust, the land or bonds in question at 10 to 12 per cent per annum, payable monthly. In 1916, on his son, David's, birth certificate his occupation was listed as "Real Estate."

He served as the first secretary of the colony and, in November 1915, he was elected to be treasurer of the colony. He was appointed postmaster for the colony in January 1916.

Other Info: In March 1933, the Story of Llano described the end of the California colony in Harriman's own words, "When we left California Mr. McCorkle was secretary, and as soon as I came down here [to Louisiana], he began to plot against the interests of the colony to gain possession of all the property for himself. He caused the Tighlman place -- most valuable of our possessions there -- to be lost and purchased it in the name of his wife, and entered into contracts with adverse interests by which he became beneficiary in many instances concerning both land and water. Under threats of foreclosure of mortgage, he forced the leasing of the entire place to outside parties, and, by cooperating with them, he stripped the ranch of the most valuable machinery and livestock. He then began foreclosure proceedings."

Harriman immediately returned to California to fight all these actions in court, explaining to McCorkle that "his transactions, in the eyes of the law, either in his name or that of his wife's were the transactions of a trustee." They eventually reached a compromise agreement whereby the mortgages would be foreclosed and all debts then divided between them.

Originally this resulted in colony debts amounting to $85,000 for the Newllano colony, though all but $10,000-$12,000 were canceled, the rest being secured by notes and mortgages on land at Newllano. In addition, as part of the deal, Harriman secured 1,000 acres of land, free from encumbrance, in the Isle of Pines [Cuba], estimated at that time to be worth $50,000.

Post-Colony History: In 1962 he remembered that, for a time, the California colony had been successful. Looking back, he believed they had failed in 1918 "because the socialists were anti-God," and that when he found out how anti-Christian the colonists were, he had parted company with them even though it meant losing all his money.

In another article, also dating to 1962, he stated that "Lack of water, poor crops and disagreement among the nine elected directors, Job, and myself killed it."

In 1920 he was living in California with his wife, four children and father-in-law and working for a water company. At some point he bought an interest in the First National Bank at Cucamonga, but was wiped out by the financial crash of 1929. In 1930 he was still living in California with his wife, two younger children and working as a cashier at a bank.

He became a farmer for a while, but jackrabbits ate up his trees and he discovered he was no farmer.

After that he dabbled in many financial jobs, including the buying and selling of a Hollywood movie sound company. In 1940 he was listed as an accountant for the motion picture industry.

In 1952 he helped organize the Seventh-Day Adventist Credit Union in Glendale where he remained until he retired on his 90th birthday.  

Death: He died in July 1962 and was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park at Los Angeles, California.  

Sources: Who's Who on the Pacific Coast: 1913; "Western Democrat": June, 1915; (Birth Certificate for David McCorkle); US Census: 1920, 1930, 1940; "Llano Colonist": January 14, 1933 (The Story of Llano), March 4, 1933 (The Story of Llano); "Bread and Hyacinths; The Rise and Fall of Utopian Los Angeles" by Paul Greenstein, Nigey Lennon and Lionel Rolfe; "Los Angeles Times": February 1, 1962; "Honolulu Star Bulletin": February 18, 1962;  


Clippng from the "Western Democrat" dated June, 1915.

Job Harriman in front seat next to driver, G.P. McCorkle, and from left, in rear seat, Frank Wolfe and Bert Engle at Llano, California.

Clipping from the "Los Angeles Times" dated Feburary 1, 1962.

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